PHOENIX — It may have just got harder for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to legally justify suspending Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen.
The assessor faces criminal charges in three states related to his adoption business. The Board of Supervisors suspended Petersen on October 29 for what it called his neglect of duty. At the time Petersen was in custody. He would spend 21 days in jail. Personal work from Petersen's legal and adoption business were also discovered during an audit of his county owned computer.
On Friday, the preliminary findings of an investigation, done at the request of the Board of Supervisors, concluded there is no evidence Petersen neglected his job duties.
The investigation was overseen by former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods.
Among the findings:
Petersen was active and engaged in some aspects of the office's work, particularly strategic planning and budgeting. The report said people interviewed generally had a positive impression of Petersen's leadership and found his time in the office was consistent with that of other elected officials.
Petersen's attorney, Kory Langhofer said, "No matter how badly the Board of Supervisors wishes to overturn the decision of Maricopa County voters, facts are stubborn things and today’s report confirms what we have been saying for weeks: Paul Petersen is the duly elected Assessor—and by all accounts, he has performed his duties well. Given the conclusions of the attorney paid by the County, we’re even more confident that a neutral tribunal would rule in our favor."
Langhofer will appeal Petersen's 120 day suspension at a special Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Meeting December 11.
"This will be his opportunity to argue why we got it wrong," board chairman Bill Gates said. "Our job as the board is to listen to that, give him due process, deliberate and then come out with a decision."